Who says you can't prepare for a group interview? One woman's account of her group interview adventure in Israel.
This is a guest post by Ronni Kives. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.
Disclaimer: all names in this article are fictitious. Resemblance to any Marketing Communication Manager or Human Resources employee is coincidental.
Unemployed for a few months now, I've been to Human Resources interviews, professional interviews, undergone take-at-home tests, on-site tests, and telephone screening (and not necessarily in that order). One day I got called from a recruitment and placement agency regarding a Marketing Communication job at an established company in Israel. The job was to be a Marketing Communication Manager at a local hitech company, be responsible for events and content management of the Web and other marketing collateral. To protect the identity, lets call the company “ABC” and say its location is Tel Aviv.
“Show up at 8:30 am on Sunday morning” at ABC company for a half-day at an evaluation center, said Liat (not her real name, but isn't there always a Liat in recruiting agencies?) “I don't know what's going to happen there, but you can't prepare for this. Just try to cooperate as much as possible, be noticed, but not to stick out too much”.
Wonderful, how am I supposed to be conspicuous and inconspicuous simultaneously? And Sunday morning at 8:30 am, the peak traffic hour at the peak day of the week? I started to ask around as to potential questions I could anticipate.
“Don't ask me”, said one (happily married!) friend. “I got kicked out once because during the exercise about who was to be saved in a lifeboat, I told everyone to have the men drown except one and leave all the women, because you don't really need them.”
So I showed up, dutifully, at 8:30 am, to find nine other women in the same predicament. It was a cold winter morning and we were told to fill out forms. Other than that, we were not offered coffee or the trip to the restroom. We also were told that the job opening was discreet and that they were looking to fill it right away. The successful applicants would be called for a personal interview. Now this seemed already very strange. What would the poor Marcom person think when she showed up to work, entered through the front door, and saw ten strange women waiting outside (sorry men – there aren't that many men in this profession, so I can only assume, in this case, that the Marcom Manager was female). Believe me, we did not look like a window-washing or office-cleaning team.
I was relieved to find another native English speaker among the woman, and started my own little clique to ease the tension caused by the unknown, the lack of coffee, and lack of toilet. At least a half hour later we were greeted, without a smile, by two Human Resource women and a cookie-carrying assistant, and led to a side building. A dozen high heels clanked down the hall towards the conference room. We finally were offered a brief salvation in terms of a kettle and a toilet and then were instructed to wear a name tag and sit down in a semicircle within a large conference room. The cookie lady vanished quickly, whereas the HR women, who did not introduce themselves, but I will refer to as Yael and Limor, respectively, did not wear name tags set the stage for an unfriendly opening.
Luckily, all ten women seemed to be very professional and well-spoken. I was rather amused by the dress code – most women wore solid colors, with or without a jacket or blazer, but one wore a miniskirt, panty-hose exposing very long legs, while another one wore a shanti-style, multi-colored tunic.
The first exercise was to compare ourselves to a means of transportation and explain why we chose that particular one.
(You're probably familiar with variations to this exercise regarding animals. I once was asked to choose an animal that I resembled. I answered “an antelope – so that I can leap over the traffic jams on the way to work”. I got the job – but this was only after a personal interview, writing test, and HR interview.)
One woman chose a taxi, explaining that she gets things done as quickly as possible, so as not to waste any time. Another chose a jet. A third chose a subway. A fourth wanted to be original and chose a Segway™. The others in turn were getting upset that their vehicle had already been chosen. I was the last in the semi-circle and read from my notes, intentionally speaking slowly and clearly in Hebrew, to compensate my tendency to speak quickly and forget to breathe, especially when nervous.
“I chose a ship because it can be used for many purposes, for example both for cargo and for tourism. The staff of a ship need to deal with many different countries, cultures, languages and regulations. This is similar to the work in marketing communications. You have some days where the sea is calm and you can deal with your day to day business. On other days, you have your storms where you need to handle crises. As I made aliyah many years ago, I have been able to adapt successfully to Israeli culture while still being able to handle cross-cultural communication”.
I thought this was a carefully crafted answer and metaphor and was proud of myself. Yael, pretending to show off her expertise in character analysis, sternly turned to me and said “a ship is a very slow-moving vehicle. Does this characterize yourself – slow?” (I didn't dare tell her that my bosses think that I do things very quickly. Instead, I looked her straight into her eyes and said “No, I do not, I just chose a ship instinctively. I carry out my tasks efficiently and deliver them on time.”
Yael made a face and wrote a note on my application. Exercise 1. Strike 1.
The next exercise was a group one. We were told that a bunch of investors from abroad had decided to invest one million dollars in a business that would be established in Israel. The investors held a tender with importance given to the following criteria:
We were given five minutes to come up with a business idea that meets the criteria of the investors, and we had to include the initial steps needed to set up this business.
Now we had to work together. Each woman suggested an idea, one woman offered to document the ideas, and another one moderated the voting. Of the ideas presented, the majority voted for a computer at the supermarket that would be multilingual, that would show the location of items in the supermarket without having to ask a staff member. The benefits of this idea were to reduce the staff having to instruct the consumers as to where their items are located, attract more computer-literate people into the supermarket (ones who would normally buy online or buy somewhere else), reduce the knowledge of many languages required by staff, and overall make the shopping experience more enjoyable, and take less time. We had a problem proving profitability, but overall, we worked well together and did not argue much. As it took us a while to present our ideas and vote on them, Yael and Limor gave us more time to think out our idea once chosen.
Our next task was to choose the staff needed for launching this project and then appointing the appropriate staff. We decided that the roles required for this startup company were a CEO who would double as a CFO, a Marketing Manager and an R&D Manager, who would double as Product Manager. We agreed that additional staff would be hired at a later date. Since the idea was pitched by a woman named Merav, we thought it was fair that she be appointed CEO. Keren volunteered to be R&D head, whereas both Sivan and Shiri wanted the Marketing Manager job. So they both presented their candidacy and voted. Once again, we proved our ability to work together as a team without conflict.
Yael and Limor weren't happy with our cooperative spirit and wanted to stir up some trouble. “Inbal, why didn't you nominate yourself as marketing manager?” Yael and Limor were pleased that they got Inbal on the defensive. They also picked on Tali.
Now, head on over to read: True Story: What A Group Interview Is Like In Israel – Part 2
Ronni Kives has been a marketing communications writer for the high tech industry in Israel for the last ten years. After receiving this guest post, I (Jacob) just received the good news that Ronni was hired for a full-time position as a marketing writer, after several months of unemployment. The content of this post has no connection whatsoever to her present position or employer and was written and submitted before the publication date here. She was not recruited through an Evaluation Center. Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Ronni currently lives in Kfar Saba, Israel.
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